In the Pervasive Media kitchen all the cooks are Experience Designers. When we design a piece of work we have to imagine our audiences being able to access the content through different ‘touch’ points (for instance through RFID and QR, through GPS or accelerometer, on a website, via triggered objects or gesture controlled projections). When you start to work with these interfaces you quickly have to imagine how your audiences will experience their journeys through the content. And there may be many different journeys. You are no longer writing linear media content where the audience ‘experience’ is sitting on a sofa looking at a TV; you have to think of the ‘user experience’ as a holistic set of possibilities.
The idea of ‘Experience Design’ has a specific technical history. First used to describe the work of theme park designers it now refers to a field in Design that can be applied to any medium. Experience Designers work with an awareness of all five senses, thinking about the kinds of interactions they want to offer their audiences to explore particular kinds of emotional responses. It starts from the idea that any experience can be designed to maximise success whether defined as product identification, personal meaning, or educational impact. Experience Designers work with what the context offers them, so the space and time of the encounter are central. The general approach of Experience Design is a really useful discipline from which to develop the potential of Pervasive Media.
A common confusion around this definition is that since all human life is experience then any artist or producer has always been designing experiences – that, so the argument goes, is what we do. Of course it is true that as media producers, artists, and engineers we put boundaries around the audience experience, we curate it, we decide what content goes in and what goes out and determine the rhythm of the work. But we rarely design for more than eye and ear. Now we have to design for experiences that are porous to the real world. Pervasive Media experiences interleave media content with our real world awareness of our bodies in space and time, moving, hearing, seeing, touching. Prototype Theater describe Fortnight as a piece exploring the ‘dramaturgy of experience’; rolling out over the city through a two week period audiences were invited to different locations to discover embedded data, and experience new situations. The whole project was conceptualized as a two week experience.
The Pervasive Media designer is thinking about how to orchestrate the audiences’ attention over a period of time in a number of different spaces. We manage a flow of attention , knowing that our users may rarely be giving us a hundred per cent of it. Knowing that attention, intensity, and immersion should vary throughout an experience. Knowing that it is our skill as designers that will offer the audience or user a satisfying journey.
What does this mean to the producer ? Well we have to think about the practical means of delivery. If for instance you are making a story based performance that involves an audience on the street how do you design the experience so that being part of an audience group in a public place doesn’t actually overwhelm the experience of the content ? How do you design so that the technology doesn’t get in the way of the experience ? Lots of our tests have failed at the level of experience when our users spent too much time jabbing touch screens to get the software to function. The means of mounting or putting on the work can easily become the experience.